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During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
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That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
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I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
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Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
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Love Without Dependency: Taking the Road Less Traveled and Finding Peace

woman in winter clothes on road

The nursing home smell permeates the still air, a saliva suction machine rests next to the bed and my mom, not looking anything like herself, sits in a hospital-grade recliner . She wears fashion-less comfort clothes, no makeup and no bra. She has her mean face on and is jabbing her finger in my direction. I haven’t done something right. I can’t understand her non-verbal grunts. She’s mad, sad and can’t believe I’m letting her down. If I really loved her, I’d want to take care of her. I’d understand her. I’d do a better job.

This was a familiar scene with my mom during the last year of her life. She lost her speech, mobility, independence and ability to eat to ALS. So, she lost pretty much everything. My sister and brother-in-law bore the brunt of her ire due to proximity, but we all felt her dissatisfaction.

What road leads to identity?

I read, “The Road Less Traveled” as a teenager. I turned the pages in my quiet corner bedroom and soaked up such concepts as ‘delayed gratification’ and ‘self-discipline’.  I recall thinking I was quite precocious reading such introspective material.

What was I looking for within those pages?

An identity must be established before it can be transcended. One must find one’s self before one can lose it. — M. Scott Peck M.D., The Road Less Traveled

Perhaps I was looking for my identity or how to create one. Perhaps I wanted to be the precocious pop-psychology guru of my small town high school. I think mostly I was just curious and had heard the title mentioned by someone I admired.

Thirty years later, I am reading “The Road Less Traveled” again. This time, I’m reading it with grown-up eyes and experience. What am I looking for now? Perhaps validation regarding all of my life choices up until this point. Perhaps more knowledge on the subjects of real love and enlightenment.

Dependency seems like the wrong road

I define dependency as the inability to experience whole-ness or to function adequately without the certainty that one is being actively cared for by another. — M. Scott Peck M.D., The Road Less Traveled

As the new year unfolds, I’ve been reflecting (and reading). I’ve thought about who I am now versus who I was just a year ago. I’ve thought about my mom. Her death last summer and the depressed anxious state she lived in for years, have been good reminders to do things differently if I want to live and leave this earth with a peaceful heart.

Easy for introverts to fall into dependent role?

When I was married, I was content, at first, to exist in love dependency. As an introvert, it was easier to fade to the back, take on the listener role, the supported role. I was given attention. There was no confrontation. My ex-husband provided loyal companionship, financial security and confident leadership. I liked being taken care of. I needed him to give me an identity. I didn’t know myself yet. 

That was not real love.

Making your own damn road

Since the end of my marriage, I’ve learned a lot about my true self. I’ve learned how to better express myself and fight for my perspective, despite fierce emotions. I’ve learned how to express myself and fight for a relationship and not give up. I’ve learned I still have old wounds that cause me to react strongly and project bad intentions onto those I love.

I had to face my flaws, get knocked down a few times, see my strengths and become more whole to have anything to give. I had/have to show up every day and work on the road to love. It was/is effortful.

I had to understand and accept my soft sensitive nature. I had to take action and create the life I desired based on that nature, including: shedding the tension-filled marriage; starting a writing and coaching career; re-working my parenting style and establishing a longterm relationship where I love as much as I am loved.

To be clear, I don’t have any of those endeavors mastered. I am in the middle of failing and figuring out all of them. Sometimes it seems I’m making my own damn road. I’m clearing trees, mowing down tall grass, swatting mosquitoes and pouring pavement, possibly in an effort to avoid ending up like my mom.

We might think that knowing ourselves is a very ego-centered thing, but by beginning to look so clearly and so honestly at ourselves—at our emotions, at our thoughts, at who we really are—we begin to dissolve the walls that separate us from others.   — Pema Chodron, To Know Yourself is to Forget Yourself

I am growing and learning through loving and being challenged by my man and my children. I realize love is not just a feeling or something primarily designed for receiving. It’s an action. It’s a giving.

But I feel whole. I feel strong and genuinely loved (even after countless emotional outpourings and many sleepless nights).

A cautionary tale

If being loved is your goal, you will fail to achieve it. — M. Scott Peck M.D., The Road Less Traveled

My mom spent most of her life looking to be loved. As a young person, her parents gave her material items, love through food and status. She was a confident, extroverted girl who surrounded herself with lots of friends and boyfriends. As an adult, she devoted herself to my sister and me. Our reciprocated devotion made her feel loved.

She had several long-term relationships, most of them unhealthy and draining, but in her eyes better than nothing. Although her companions kept her from being alone, having to self-soothe and taking out the trash, they didn’t spark a lot of personal growth. That would require real effort, self-awareness and real love, which Mom never seemed up for.

M&Ms and mashed potatoes don’t spark personal evolution

Mom did not have the self-discipline to maintain a healthy weight. Baked goods, peanut M&Ms and mashed potatoes brought her comfort. She seemed to only really know herself in terms of what she received in care, attention or material items. She did not know how to love herself.

We empathized with her horrible plight and gave her as much comfort and love as possible. It never seemed to be enough. She thought things should or would come to her right up until the end when she was pissed every day about something the nurses did or did not do. When she cried deep sobs of despair. When she chastised my sister and brother-in-law for not visiting enough or not getting her the right toothbrush.

woman with sparklerMy reflections at the beginning of 2016 tell me that love comes from within and requires outward effort to sustain. We have to work and be whole beings to love and be loved. If we keep at it with discipline, a penchant for personal development, hope, and a willingness to take the road less traveled, we have a shot.

Do you have the courage to take the road less traveled? Are you waiting to be loved? What are you doing to experience wholeness? 

If you would like to learn how to lead your life and create real love, contact me to talk about coaching services

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10 Comments

  1. Morena February 2, 2016 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Brenda, I’ve never been the type to wait for love. I grew up in a very volatile household where thee was no love and affection and while others may seek this from men or material possessions, to make them feel valued, I kept my head in my books. I too, read the road less traveled when I was in H.S. It means so much more as an adult right now. I saw the detrimental side of what happens, when one is not in a healthy relationship or does not love themselves. I had to many examples around me, to know what not to do. Whatever everyone was doing or not doing, I did the opposite. My father was not fit to lead, love or parent, he was void of love on all levels and return express that by being abusive verbally and physically.

    I know the only way for me to have a healthy relationship with myself is to love myself, and know that I am whole, so that I can attract the love that I want and need. I recognize red flags from men and it doesn’t take much for me to make a quick exist. I state how I feel, even if someone is uncomfortable with it. I tend to meet men, that when they feel ‘rejected’ or feel like they are not going to get their way, their ego and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde comes out. People think the reason why I’m single, is because I’m picky, I have a right to have standards and know what I want. But a man is not the alpha and the omega of my life. Respect, loyalty and becoming friends, seem to be traits that are hard to come by now a days.

    Sure I would love, love one day in my life, I have a big heart and I tend to give or just do, When I say I love you, I show it through my actions. My last relationship, I didn’t realize I was giving and doing so much, until I was laid off.. and it took me having several losses to realize I wasn’t being met with the same love, that I was giving out. My independence backfired on me. And since I didn’t grow up with a healthy environment with my father. I never looked to a man to provide or pull his own weight. So even when I meet a guy and I think, ok he just wants to engage in conversation. I see that it is way more than that and these men, are looking to be taken care of and I flee.

    I recognize the needy and clingy men, because my father is that way, still at 65 and beyond controlling. When I last saw him as an adult, he has not changed, the man act likes I’m his woman or some possessions or something. Never ever seeing me as an adult, as a human being, as a woman and never respecting me for more that a few seconds. He always feels the need, to tell a woman what to do and to control. He actually said to me, verbatim, “ever since you were little you always had an opinion” “You women are to independent, you act like you don’t need a man, y’all wanna be all on the TV.” He’s referring to seeing me model on TV back in 2011, but hes only mad because of what this stylist said about, someone in my past told me to hide my shape. He has a guilty conscious because he knows he has said things about my body growing up. One minute he’s arguing about something his girlfriend did, next he’s mentioned something that had nothing to do with anything…One minute he’s like wow you look nice, pretending, as if he’s really giving me a compliment over the phoneme then he’s the type to be like, when I see her in person , I’m gonna really tell her how I feel. My father has always had a vedette against me for the longest, I don’t pay him no no mind. A moment that was so special and fun for me, he just had to ruin it and put his negative energy on it..

    For some strange reason, I tend to meet men, who have a love/hate relationship for women and can’t stand the rejection and when it comes to anything, when these men don’t get what they want, if they happen to have a woman in their lives… they come across a nice woman and they feel like, ok, I didn’t get what I wanted in the last few, let me see if I can get what I want from this nice woman here. They feel entitled for whatever reason. They want a woman to prove their love to them. When ever I mention something, or compliment a guy on whatever it is, they see that as a sign of adoration and that I like them and want more, when I never said anything abut wanting more. One guy, I love his poetry that he tried to turn it into more and the guy was married not to mention he had several women with his kids that he was trying to hide, He got mad at me, with asking questions, when I notice his inconsistencies…I was talking about work and he was trying to plan my life without me knowing…I never even knew I was an option.

    I observe a lot of when it comes to people and I do my best to get people to see the warning signs and we’ve all been with someone when we know we should walk away but we stay and fight and no relationship is perfect but we all have our breaking point. You have a lot of people that are in relationships because just like you said “being with somebody is better than nobody” I’d rather be alone. As much as I love, love and I’m a hopeless romantic, there is just a freedom with just being and not answering to anyone, that I am not ready to relinquish at all. I’m mastering aloneness but will make sure that I socialize very now and then, but I know what a relationship entails and I’m not ready to give up’ me’ for ‘we’ just yet. I only have one life and I have to put me first and make sure I’m happy because in the past I put others before me, being selfless and It was taken advantage of. People expected me to do things, then when I stopped, its like what are you doing? I know so many people who look toward material possessions to fill a void or another person.

    People try to make me feel bad or act like I did something wrong, because I’m not married with kids or I don’t have a man taking care of me, or that I don’t have my degree yet. When they have need really lived on their own. My freedom is met with hidden jealousy because when we talk, its always about the kids and husband and how they can’t do what they want and i don’t have those responsibilities right now. I get to work on me. I met a nice guy online and he seems really nice and he told me how he felt about me and how he wanted to be with me, on a permanent basis, but I’m not ready for that, I’m not so sure of him and he is of me and (I had no clue) he was so sure of me like that….I’ll admit, he has me thinking about being in a relationship, but I don’t want to regret or have any type of resentment for things that I did not do, before I decide to blend my life with someone. I’m stuck between wanting a big house and maybe a family but then on the other hand, I want to buy my own condo, since I didn’t get a chance to, when my last relationship ended. I want to own something, before I ‘settle down’ and people think because I’m in my 30’s, I should rush but I’m not going to, because thats what they did. Age and fear are not going to rule me (like they did), when the time is right and what I want and what the other person wants, is in alignment with each others values and life, and we can complement each others lives, then maybe it will happen in the right timing. But as of now, I’m taking my time and just being and trusting the journey. Thanks for reading I know its long, LOL

  2. Shaneild February 1, 2016 at 12:41 am - Reply

    What a great article. I appreciate the transparency and courage in your writing it was extremely helpful. I’m really glad I found this blog and a community of like-minded individuals.

  3. Bob January 31, 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your incite and glimpses into your personal journey. Truly gives me pause.

    • Brenda Knowles January 31, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you found it useful Bob.

  4. Pearl January 31, 2016 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Many thanks for this post Brenda. It has given me a sense of hope and courage to march on as an intuitive who is also highly sensitive person. I have being struggling lately with the intuitive biggest unmet need, nicely summed up here
    “Your biggest need (and probably unmet at this point) is regular, high quality, abstract, conceptual conversation. That’s it. That’s your biggest unmet need. It seems so simple, but without it you curl up, crawl into yourself and die a little inside.”
    This post makes me think like whatever issues I have, I should just work on being whole, the rest will fall on into place. You doing a fabulous job Brenda, much love!

    • Brenda Knowles January 31, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Pearl. I think personal development and becoming whole are the keys to contentedness and fulfillment. It’s not easy that’s part of the process. High quality conversations and meaningful relationships definitely make growth easier and worthwhile. May you find more like-minded individuals to join you on your journey.

  5. Shilpa January 31, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Loved the writing. One of the best on your website. thanks.

    • Brenda Knowles January 31, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words Shilpa.

  6. david kanigan January 31, 2016 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Moved….wonderful post Brenda. You grabbed me from the opening line.

    • Brenda Knowles January 31, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you David. The experience is still fresh in my heart and mind.

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